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The post-America threat
The problem: Every nation grows outdated, and so too will America, but slipping superpowers can cause a lot of damage before they exit.
The solution: Use America as an anchor to build an ever-expanding alliance system while slowly abolishing America’s nation-state status. If America fails to lead, we must let some other great power do the exact same thing.
For the non-Americans reading this book, a world without America may seem appealing- finally, an end to the Yankee imperialist dogs so often behind every coup, every drone, and every GMO. Yet a world without America is not an opportunity. It’s a disaster.
Much moaning has been given towards the notion of the American global policeman, but very little of that moaning has ever been thoughtful. When Chinese and Russian elites complain, it’s more excusable; they wish they had no cop at all to contend with as they pursue their interests. But for the rest of the world, it’s wholly irrational, for without a global cop, the world is much more dangerous.
Civil wars are the most murderous kinds of wars because they pit neighbor against neighbor, but interstate wars aren’t far behind. Combined they are the reasons nation-states are highly dangerous. Once mobilized against either an external or internal enemy, a nation-state always fills body bags in its pursuit of power.
It is thus of supreme human interest to minimize both civil wars and intra-state wars. But how? The answer is the global cop: someone strong enough to roll in and impose conditions. That’s essentially what a cop does- armed and trained, they are meant to be more powerful than the community they police, able to use the threat of violence to deter other, less predictable violence.
As seen in chapter 4, the United States has done this remarkably well on what was once the most dangerous continent in the world: Europe. Remember that Europeans not only invented but tried out both Naziism and Communism with little regard for human life. Together those two ideologies killed well above 150 million, far more than the body count of any American war. It is not that the U.S. is perfect, because no nation-state is, but that it’s better than the alternative.
That the U.S. has not done this continental peacemaking service for Africa, Asia, or South America has everything to do with its limits as a superpower. Policing Europe is expensive enough, especially with Russia outside of the U.S. geopolitical system.
We can see even today the results of an American withdrawal from a region. Under President Obama, the United States famously pivoted to Asia: a very public, strategic shift away from the Middle East to contain a rising China. In the Middle East, the results have been not less but more war. Saudi Arabia, fearful of losing its superpower protection, has lashed out in Yemen and Syria against its regional foe Iran, while Iran and Turkey, less worried about stepping on American toes, have escalated their interests in Syria. In other words, without the Americans to balance everyone, there is no balance. States resort to violent conflict to establish order.
This is in stark contrast to Asia, where the pivot has forced the Chinese to learn to be far less aggressive in staking out their interests, lest grabbing too much, too fast ignite a nuclear war. While in 1979, China felt safe to invade Vietnam, today it dares not even rattle a saber too hard. When American aircraft carriers arrive in the Pacific, it bodes poorly for Chinese interests. This is demonstrated best in Myanmar, where civil war could open the door for aggressive Chinese interest. Instead, Beijing remains mum, fearful that involving itself in a hot conflict could throw it off balance for its quiet conflicts in the South China Seas and Taiwan.
But just because it’s a bad idea doesn’t mean it won’t happen. All things change, no condition is permanent. One day, we will have to confront a world without America. How we do so may decide if our species sees the 22nd.